Two years removed from a National Title, and entering this season with a sixth-place national ranking, the UR Debate Union is ready to argue circles around its opponents.
The truly great teams in every competitive field always look to improve during the off-season, and this past year, UR’s Debate Union was no exception.
“This year, for the first time, we recruited freshmen who had been great debaters in high school with scholarships,” President of the Debate Union and junior Karim Oussayef said.
Will Sonday was one of those freshmen recruited.
“It’s great. Everybody shares the responsibility. We’ve got five coaches willing to help,” Sonday said. “In high school, I had to do all the work by myself. I can’t wait to see what we can do this year.”
Sonday will start out at the junior varsity level partnered with fellow freshman debater and high school friend Keith Syverson.
Along with talented new freshmen, the team also added another coach to its fold, Christy Webster. Webster is a graduate of UR and a former All-American debater from last year’s team.
Due to their new approach and a dedicated and resourceful coaching staff, the whole team is optimistic for what it can accomplish.
“We have a really good chance at Nationals,” Head Coach Sam Nelson said. “We have a great group of coaches and talent at all three levels.”
Members of the team echoed Nelson’s enthusiasm, as well. “Everyone has a lot of experience. We have so many dedicated higher-level debaters,” Vice President of the Debate Union and junior Liz Gaskell said.
They view quantity, along with quality, as one of their strengths. 59 students were able to attend tournaments last year, tying UR for the largest squad in the nation. This allowed them to field many talented novices throughout the year at different tournaments. The ability to field pairs at novice, junior varsity and varsity is an opportunity few other teams have.
“We’re always looking for more debaters at any skill level,” Nelson said. “It wouldn’t be possible to have one of the top teams without SA funding and especially support from Martin Messinger, whose funding and donations allow us to send our debaters to tournaments at other schools.”
The extra support allows first time debaters to get their feet wet and improve their public speaking skills throughout the year, while most other teams can only use their novices at their home tournaments.
While the debate team looks very good, they are definitely not without opponents.
“In our region, our toughest competition is probably NYU,” Gaskell said. Despite the tough competition, the UR Debate Union looks to go far this year, and another national title is certainly not out of the question.
Farrell can be reached at email@example.com.